Preventing A Low Blood Sugar Level
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of getting a low blood sugar level if you:
- Check your blood sugar level regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar level so you can treat it quickly.
- Use a continuous glucose monitor or flash monitor to see how your blood sugar levels are changing. Ask your diabetes care team about getting a monitor if you do not already have one.
- Always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets. If you have a glucagon injection kit, always keep it with you.
- Do not skip meals.
- Be careful when drinking alcohol. Do not drink large amounts, check your blood sugar level regularly, and eat a carbohydrate snack afterwards.
- Be careful when exercising eating a carbohydrate snack before exercise can help to reduce the risk of a hypo. If you take some types of diabetes medicine, your doctor may recommend you take a lower dose before or after doing intense exercise.
- Have a carbohydrate snack, such as toast, if your blood sugar level drops too low while you’re asleep .
If you keep getting a low blood sugar level, talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it.
Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
How you react to low blood sugar may not be the same as how someone else with low blood sugar reacts. Its important to know your signs. Common symptoms may include:
If youve had low blood sugar without feeling or noticing symptoms , you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low and treat it. Driving with low blood sugar can be dangerous, so be sure to check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel.
You may not have any symptoms when your blood sugar is low . If you dont have symptoms, it will be harder to treat your low blood sugar early. This increases your risk of having severe lows and can be dangerous. This is more likely to happen if you:
- Have had diabetes for more than 5-10 years.
- Frequently have low blood sugar.
- Take certain medicines, such as beta blockers for high blood pressure.
If you meet one or more of the above and you have hypoglycemia unawareness, you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low. This is very important to do before driving or being physically active.
Possible Causes With Diabetes
Diabetes affects your bodys ability to use insulin. Think of insulin as the key that unlocks your cells, letting in glucose for energy.
If you have diabetes, a variety of treatments can help the cells in your body use the glucose in your blood. Among these are insulin injections and oral medications that increase insulin production.
If you take too much of these types of medications, your blood sugar may drop too low. You may also sometimes experience low blood sugar if you plan to eat a big meal but then do not eat enough.
Skipping meals, eating less than usual, or eating later than usual but taking your medication at your usual time can also lead to low blood sugar levels.
Unplanned excess physical activity without eating enough can also cause a drop in blood sugar levels.
Drinking alcohol when youre on these medications can also lead to low blood sugar, especially if it replaces food. When your body is trying to get rid of alcohol, it becomes worse at managing blood sugar levels.
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What If I Have Severe Low Blood Glucose And Cant Treat Myself
Glucagona hormone that raises blood glucose levelsis the best way to treat severely low blood glucose. Available as an injection or a nasal spray, glucagon will quickly raise your blood glucose level. Your doctor can prescribe you a glucagon kit for use in case of an emergency.
If your blood glucose level drops very low, you wont be able to treat it by yourself. Be prepared to address severely low blood glucose by
- talking with your doctor or health care team about when and how to use a glucagon emergency kit. If you have an emergency kit, regularly check the date on the package to make sure it hasnt expired.
- teaching your family, friends, and coworkers when and how to give you glucagon. Tell them to call 911 right away after giving you glucagon or if you dont have a glucagon emergency kit with you.
- wearing a medical alert identification bracelet or pendant. A medical alert ID tells other people that you have diabetes and need care right away. Getting prompt care can help prevent the serious problems that low blood glucose levels can cause.
High Blood Sugar Causes
You may be thinking that hyperglycemia can happen just from eating a super-sugary food, but its not really as simple as that. Sure, eating a lot of sugar or carbs can elevate your blood sugar level, but thats typically when your pancreas kicks into gear and creates insulin to move that glucose into cells throughout the body.
But when someone has diabetes, this finely tuned system gets thrown out of whack. In type 2 diabeteswhich accounts for 90% to 95% of diabetes in adults, according to the CDCthe body either cant make enough insulin or cant utilize insulin well, according to the NIDDK. If someone has prediabetes, their blood glucose will be higher than normal but not quite in the type 2 diabetes range yet, per the NIDDK. And in type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin or makes very little.
In any case, the result is extra sugar hanging around the bloodstream, making you feel like total crap in the short term and putting your health at risk in the long term.
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Possible Causes Without Diabetes
Even if you dont have diabetes, you may experience low blood sugar. However, hypoglycemia is much less common in people without diabetes.
Some possible causes of low blood sugar in people who dont have diabetes are:
- certain medications, such as quinine
- some medical conditions, such as hepatitis and kidney disorders
- a tumor that produces excess insulin
- endocrine disorders, such as adrenal gland deficiency
Hypoglycemia Tests And Diagnosis
To diagnose nondiabetic hypoglycemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about any medicines you take. Theyâll want to know all about your health and any history of diseases or stomach surgery.
Theyâll check your blood glucose level, especially when you are having symptoms. Theyâll also check to see if you feel better when your sugar goes back to a normal level.
If your doctor suspects hypoglycemia, you may have to fast until you start to have symptoms. Theyâll test your blood glucose level at different times throughout the fast.
To check for reactive hypoglycemia, you may have to take a test called a mixed-meal tolerance test . For this, you take a special drink that raises your blood glucose. The doctor will check your blood glucose levels over the next few hours.
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Early Signs Of Diabetes
Both types of diabetes have some of the same telltale warning signs.
- Hunger and fatigue. Your body converts the food you eat into glucose that your cells use for energy. But your cells need insulin to take in glucose. If your body doesn’t make enough or any insulin, or if your cells resist the insulin your body makes, the glucose can’t get into them and you have no energy. This can make you hungrier and more tired than usual.
- Peeing more often and being thirstier. The average person usually has to pee between four and seven times in 24 hours, but people with diabetes may go a lot more. Why? Normally, your body reabsorbs glucose as it passes through your kidneys. But when diabetes pushes your blood sugar up, your kidneys may not be able to bring it all back in. This causes the body to make more urine, and that takes fluids. The result: You’ll have to go more often. You might pee out more, too. Because you’re peeing so much, you can get very thirsty. When you drink more, you’ll also pee more.
- Dry mouth and itchy skin. Because your body is using fluids to make pee, there’s less moisture for other things. You could get dehydrated, and your mouth may feel dry. Dry skin can make you itchy.
- Blurred vision. Changing fluid levels in your body could make the lenses in your eyes swell up. They change shape and canÃ¢â¬â¢t focus.
Listen To Your Doctor
If you follow a meal plan or take medications that increase insulin to manage low blood sugar, its important to stick to the plan your doctor prescribed to help prevent drops in your blood sugar level.
Not eating the right foods or taking the right medications at the correct times can cause your blood sugar to drop. Check in often with your doctor so they can adjust your treatment plan if and when necessary.
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Causes Of Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose is common for people with type 1 diabetes and can occur in people with type 2 diabetes taking insulin or certain medications. The average person with type 1 diabetes may experience up to two episodes of mild low blood glucose each week, and thats only counting episodes with symptoms. If you add in lows without symptoms and the ones that happen overnight, the number would likely be higher.
Treating Severely Low Blood Sugar
Blood sugar below 55 mg/dL is considered severely low. You wont be able to treat it using the 15-15 rule. You also may not be able to check your own blood sugar or treat it by yourself, depending on your symptoms. Make sure your family members, friends, and caregivers know your signs of low blood sugar so they can help treat it if needed.
Injectable glucagon is the best way to treat severely low blood sugar. A glucagon kit is available by prescription. Speak with your doctor to see if you should have a kit. Be sure to learn how and when to use it. Let family members and others close to you know where you keep the glucagon kit and make sure theyve been trained in how to use it too.
Its important to contact a doctor for emergency medical treatment immediately after receiving a glucagon injection. If a person faints due to severely low blood sugar, theyll usually wake up within 15 minutes after a glucagon injection. If they dont wake up within 15 minutes after the injection, they should receive one more dose. When the person is awake and able to swallow:
- Feed the person a fast-acting source of sugar .
- Then, have them eat a long-acting source of sugar .
Its also important that friends, family, co-workers, teachers, coaches, and other people you may be around often know how to test your blood sugar and treat severely low blood sugar before it happens.
If any of the following happens, your friend, relative, or helper should call 911:
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Signs Of Low Blood Sugar
With hypoglycemia, the blood sugar falls below the normal, healthy levels mentioned earlier, which can occur for a variety of reasons.
“Although some people with blood sugar problems may not experience symptoms,” Dr. Aldasouqi continued, “there are some key things to look out for. For those with low blood sugar, someone might have symptoms like anxiety, sweating, increased heart rate, confusion, and may go into what is called ‘a hypoglycemic coma’… The term ‘diabetic coma’ is also used by some.”
Other symptoms of low blood sugar may include:
- Tingling or numb lips, tongue or cheek
It’s Easy To Miss The Signs Of Low Blood Sugar
Dr. Block explains, “Most of the time, people experience symptoms of low sugar, but they may not recognize those symptoms. This can include irritability, anxiety, palpitations, confusion and fatigue. The symptoms are nonspecific, so it is important to have regular meals and snacks with a healthy well-balanced diet. If symptoms do not improve with dietary changes, it is important to check in with your physician to help assess hypoglycemia. They may recommend advanced blood testing, a professional continuous glucose monitor or nutrition counseling.”
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How To Test Your Blood Sugar At Home
To perform a blood sugar test, you will need to prick your finger with a lancet . Youll put a small sample of blood from this onto a strip inserted into the blood glucose meter.
Before you test your blood sugar at home, its important to find out from your doctor what a healthy blood sugar range is for you. Your doctor will determine this range based on factors such as:
- the type of diabetes you have
- how long youve had diabetes
- whether you have any other chronic health conditions
If you dont have a blood sugar testing machine on hand and are experiencing signs or symptoms of low blood sugar with diabetes, your symptoms may be enough to diagnose low blood sugar.
What If The 15
If you dont feel better after three tries, or if your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider or 911. Healthcare providers can use a medication called glucagon. They inject it with a needle or squirt it up your nose. Glucagon is also available for home use. Your healthcare provider can prescribe it and teach a family member or friend how to use it in the event of severe hypoglycemia.
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What If Im Experiencing Hypoglycemic Episodes Even Though My Doctor Has Confirmed That I Dont Have Diabetes Or Prediabetes
If you have low blood sugar and dont have diabetes or , it can be a sign of another serious health issue such as a tumor, hormone deficiency, kidney disorder, anorexia, or other eating disorder, all of which can cause dangerously low blood sugar.
Anorexia has an extremely high mortality rate compared with other psychiatric disorders, according to the NIHs National Institute of Mental Health , and the cause of death can be hypoglycemia. So take your illness seriously and seek help if you suspect your eating disorder may be progressing to the point where it is causing you to faint or experience other signs and symptoms of dangerously low blood sugar. The National Eating Disorders Association has resources on how to identify the signs that you may have an eating disorder, a hotline for help, as well as easily accessible information on everything from how to know when you need help to how to find quality treatment options in your zip code.
People who are not diabetic don’t spontaneously have hypoglycemia for no reason, explains Dr. Christofides. Its often an indication of another underlying issue, such as a hormone deficiency or eating disorder, so its important to schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause in order to prevent complications.
Common causes of hypoglycemia in people without diabetes include:
Anorexia and other eating disorders
How Can I Be Better Prepared For Hypoglycemia
You can take some steps to be ready for hypoglycemia:
- Be aware of the symptoms and treat them early.
- Carry some fast-acting carbs with you all the time.
- Check your glucose levels frequently, especially around meals and exercise.
- Inform family, friends and co-workers so they know what do if you need help.
- Talk to your healthcare provider regularly to make and update your plan.
- Wear a medical bracelet that lets people know you have diabetes. Carry a card in your purse or wallet with instructions for hypoglycemia.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hypoglycemia is quite common in people with diabetes. If not treated, it can cause troubling symptoms, and even serious health problems. Fortunately, you can avoid hypoglycemic episodes by monitoring your blood sugar. You can also make small adjustments to eating and exercising routines.
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The Dangers Of Low Blood Glucose
At some time, most people with diabetes experience the sweating and shakiness that occurs when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl a condition known as hypoglycemia. The average person with type 1 diabetes may experience symptoms of low blood glucose up to two times a week. However, not all are aware that these symptoms can rapidly progress to seizures, coma and even death if hypoglycemia is severe. Though hypoglycemia can be common and occur repeatedly in some people with diabetes, symptoms of low blood glucose should always be taken seriously. People with diabetes and their families, friends or coworkers should be prepared to act quickly and responsibly at the earliest signs of low blood glucose.
Examples Of Easily Digestible Carbohydrates
- 1/2 cup of juice or regular soda
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 4 or 5 saltine crackers
- 3 or 4 pieces of hard candy or glucose tablets
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
Very low blood sugar is a medical emergency. If you or someone else with diabetes is experiencing severe symptoms, such as unconsciousness, its important to administer a medication called glucagon and contact emergency services immediately.
If youre at risk for low blood sugar, its important to talk with your doctor about getting a prescription for glucagon.
You should never give an unconscious person anything by mouth, as it could cause them to choke. If you have diabetes, make sure your family and friends know not to do this if you lose consciousness.
Low blood sugar can occur for a number of reasons. Its usually a side effect of diabetes treatment.
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